Internet Access Drives Democracy Around The World

The top tweet on Egypt in the states is from Conan O’Brien who says to Mubarek, “if you want people to stay at home, turn the Internet back on.”  It’s not clear if that is what has brought things back online but according to Craig Labovitz, chief Scientist at Arbor networks, power was restored on February 2, at 5:00 EDT. According to their report, this outage was different from Iran’s and Myanmar’s in that Egypt enjoys a robust network of web sites and providers ostensibly all back online.  “We have never seen a country as connected as Egypt completely lose Internet connectivity for such an extended period. Also as a sign of the growing importance of social media, and web sites, it is telling that Egyptian telecommunications block largely focused on the Internet – mobile and fixed line service returned earlier in the week.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures though as we see the folks @speak2tweet offering a proxy service, “Click the link in each tweet to hear a voice tweet from folks inside Egypt. Call +16504194196 or +390662207294 to leave a tweet and hear tweets.”  No doubt other technologies and innovations will emanate from the struggle for peace and freedom, just as they did in the states over two hundred years ago.

And over at a group of hackers going by “anonymous” brought down government Internet sites in Yemen and Egypt in reaction to the Egypt move to take it away from its people.  “n a protest against Internet censorship in Egypt, hacker group Anonymous took down the sites of the Ministry of Information and President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party on Wednesday. The National Democratic Party’s site is still offline.”  These are the same folks who claimed credit for taking down PayPal and government web sites in Tunisian and Zimbabwe in response to their attempts to kill Wikileaks exposure.

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All of these actions and the discussion around them are calling attention to the “Kill the Internet” switch introduced last year by Lieberman and Collins which died when the new Congress took over.  According to the groups, “Essentially, the bill directs the president to create a list of critical cyber systems (for instance, those necessary to the electric grid or the financial system) that he would be able to take emergency control of if threatened. What systems would be on this list, the specific conditions that might threaten them, and what “emergency measures” entail are largely unspecified, and this vagueness worries some privacy and civil rights groups.

“Twenty-four of these groups, despite noting the bill doesn’t authorize unreasonable electronic surveillance, were still wary enough to write an open letter [PDF] opposing the bill when it was first proposed to the Homeland Security Committee in June.

“The Internet is vital to free speech and free inquiry, and Americans rely on it every day to access and to convey information,” the letter says. “…the bill should also be amended to require an independent assessment of the effect on free speech, privacy and other civil liberties of the measures undertaken to respond to each emergency the President declares. It is imperative that cybersecurity legislation not erode our rights.”

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